Review of YMS concert at York Minster, 17 November 2018

Review: York Musical Society, York Minster, November 17

From York Press 19 November 2018

After the week that brought us the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, York Musical Society’s Saturday concert programme was crafted to both reflect on the tragedy of war and express hope for a peaceful future.

The concert opened with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ timely Dona Nobis Pacem with reduced orchestral score. Some spine-tingling moments in the introductory Agnus Dei were owed largely to the expertly balanced choir. In the captivating Beat! Beat! Drums!, the violin counter-melodies were dexterously woven alongside Alistair Ollerenshaw’s velvety baritone, and much-loved YMS musical director David Pipe coaxed a suitably telling performance of the work’s final, redolent plea for peace.

The evening also included a nicely paced, if slightly uniform rendering of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, once famously described as the “saddest music ever written”. The small size of the orchestra left some intonation issues in the upper strings exposed, but this was nevertheless an emotive performance.

The choir returned in impressive form for an earnest rendering of John Rutter’s Requiem. There was some untidy counterpoint in the opening Requiem Aeternam, but otherwise, they were persistently well balanced and armed with good intonation and phrasing. This was particularly evident during the darker moments of the Agnus Dei, for which the Minster proved a generous host.

Soprano Jenny Stafford displayed remarkable control at the top of her range in Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna, and there were also several opportunities for orchestra members to relish in the score’s well-crafted solos.

This evocative concert provided a most welcome opportunity for reflection after the week’s centenary events. A testament to YMS’s unfaltering yet perceptive musical conviction.

Review by Charlotte Armstrong